Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You Can't Maintain Metaphysical Fitness by Wrestling with Shadows

This is a post where you may have to read it all the way through in order to know what it is about. Or, it may require additional posts....

Bahhhh... It's on the tip of my tongue... No, not sheep. What do you call it, Jeeves? That's it: Baadar-Meinhof phenomenon. It's when something is brought to our attention, and then we start seeing it everywhere.

It's happening now with left and right brain differences. Ever since I picked up The Master and His Emissary, they're turning up everywhere I look, for example, in this book by Etienne Gilson called Methodical Realism.

I should point out that nowhere does Gilson, of course, make reference to split brain research. Nevertheless, his description of the proper working of the mind is uncannily reminiscent of what we've been saying about experience starting in the right brain and then being processed in a more abstract way by the left.

If we start with the left, and confuse the abstraction with the reality, we're headed for the metaphysical ditch. And yet, this is the fundamental Error of the West over these past few centuries, essentially since the innovations of Descartes took hold in the collective western psyche. In fact, instead of "western psyche," we might as well say "left psyche," as I will proceed to demonstrate.

Let's fast forward to the last chapter of the book, A Handbook for Beginning Realists. It consists of 30 insultaining postulates and principles one would do well to read and internalize before setting foot onto university soil, because most everything you are exposed to in the university will violate these principles, and therefore, the Real. Certainly no one there will ever chide you for being a simple-minded relativist or naive liberal. Or sick idealist.

Here is Gilson's #1: "The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one's conversion is all but complete."

What this means is that people who are not realists are just posing, like the proud and brave anti-gun activists seen in James O'Keefe's hilarious new video.

Or think of Al Gore, who is happy to impose his abstract fantasy on the entire world, but not to the point that it troubles his conscience to take 100 million real dollars from Big Oil. He may be crazy, but he's not stupid. Or is it the other way around? Same with Obama. He's happy to grab your weapons, but he's not unrealistic enough to declare the White House a gun-free zone.

More generally, almost all of the liberals I personally know live conspicuously conservative lives. So why don't they preach with the left brain what they practice with the right? It's a weird form of inverted hypocrisy.

Before proceeding any further we probably need to nail down some definitions, since realism is a philosophical term of art. Everyone thinks he is a "realist," but we are obviously not using the word in the colloquial sense.

Quite simply, the realist starts with the external world as the source of knowledge. Ever since Descartes, and especially Kant, this seemingly common sense view has been dismissed by the tenured as hopelessly naive and pre-critical. Which, of course, it can be. But to imagine that Thomas Aquinas was a naive and uncritical thinker is itself a breathtaking example of uncritical naiveté.

There are really only two places to begin our lifetome adventure of consciousness: with being, or with thought. Quite simply, the scholastics begin with being, while any form of critical philosophy begins with thought, as in I think, therefore I am.

Really? Really?

Again, as alluded to above, people inevitably vote with their feet, and it is strictly impossible to maintain a consistent idealism: "The idealist method is the suicide of philosophy," writes Gilson, "because it engages philosophy in an inextricable series of internal contradictions that ultimately draw it into skepticism," or "self-liberation through suicide" (what we call cluelesside).

Here is Gilson's second point:

"We must begin by distrusting the term 'thought'; for the greatest difference between the realist and the idealist is that the idealist thinks, whereas the realist knows.

"For the realist, thinking simply means organizing knowledge or reflecting on its content. It would never occur to him to make thought the starting point of his reflections, because for him a thought is only possible where there is first of all knowledge. The idealist, however, because he goes from thought to things, cannot know whether what he starts from corresponds to an object or not."

The inevitable result is that there is simply no way to reunite thought and reality. "You can't get there from here," as the joke goes. In terms of left and right brain differences, it seems that knowledge must begin in the right brain, because it is precisely where world and psyche meet in a thoroughly holistic and entangled sort of way. Gilson says as much:

"The knowledge the realist is talking about is the lived and experienced unity of an intellect with an apprehended reality." The left brain can then help us reflect on that reality, but cannot be its source.

But when we sunder thought and reality, the latter is "ceaselessly fragmented into imaginary entities which are so much false coin.... everything splits into a couple of antinomical terms which the ingenuity of philosophers will never succeed in reuniting" (e.g., body and soul, life and matter, mind and animal, subject and object, individual and collective, freedom and determinism, etc.). It is "a field of battle where irreconcilable shadows are locked in a struggle without end..."

In other words, the left brain cannot generate its own content, with certain exceptions, most especially, logical or mathematical entailment. Interestingly, Gilson points out that Descartes used mathematics as the touchstone of his system, which is precisely what helped displace Aristotelean science, which had been erroneously rooted in biology. (Probably not saying that as clearly as I should, but you get the point.)

Once it was seen that scientific advance was only possible by adopting a quantitative view of the world, the realist baby was thrown out with the Aristotelean bathwater, and here we are: the patently un-real worlds of scientism, Darwinism, neo-Marxism, and various other abstract left brain pathologies. Each of these pseudo-philosophies generates absurdities and paradoxes which it is powerless to resolve within itself.

Note that there is nothing fundamentally illogical about such ideologies. As Gilson explains, "Idealism derives its whole strength from the consistency with which it develops the consequences of its initial error. One is, therefore, mistaken in trying to refute it by accusing it of not being logical enough." Paul Krugman is of course crazy, but not illogical.

Indeed, ideologues "live by logic," because in them "the order of connections of ideas replaces the order and connection between things." Thus, Marxism, for example, makes perfect sense, so long as it follows on the initial error of superimposing the Hegelian dialectic on reality. Likewise, Darwinism is a total explanation so long as we ignore our lived human experience.

To be continued...

50 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

Brilliance shined forth today on that blog post Bob. Not that they all aren't in their own way, but some "thoughts" :) really speak to what I need to hear at this time.

1/16/2013 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's like a man saying, I have tools -- saw, hammer, level. I'm going to build a house.

OK, what about boards, nails, drywall, stuff like that?

But that's so noisy and messy, this is an ideal house. I don't need all that. I have my tools.

1/16/2013 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny, until you realize it's all too true.

1/16/2013 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Note that there is nothing fundamentally illogical about such ideologies."

Indeed. Within it's own soph-contained, little world it's eminently logical.

It's only with experience or "pre-critical" (what a hilarious term, although it is coined by humorlous idiots, ironically) thinking that logic begins to make more perfect sense(lessness) by adding reasoning skills based on truth.

"I see," said the blind man, talking to his deaf wife, picking up his hammer and saw.

1/16/2013 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, I'm reminded of the latest bit of logic re. gun control:

"If it saves just one child, it's worth it!"

1/16/2013 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mushroom, if only leftist fantasies were that cheap.

Unfortunately, they budget for all the materials and waste it (endlessly over it, actually) on the latest "stimulous" boondoggle (or what leftist's refer to as "investments").

As Mark Steyn said (paraphrasing), if we are going to go big government at least we should have something to show for it rather than crushing debt and worse than nothing.

Hell, we didn't even get new infrastructure.

1/16/2013 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie, Van takes Jay Carney and the left to the woodshed over that foolish and diabolical statement.

http://blogodidact.blogspot.com/2013/01/jay-carneys-vicious-blood-thirsty.html



1/16/2013 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, if Carney reads Van's take-down, we'll have six more weeks of winter.

1/16/2013 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

An awesome post! I want to repost just about every part of it, but I'll settle for these:

"...And yet, this is the fundamental Error of the West over these past few centuries, essentially since the innovations of Descartes took hold in the collective western psyche. In fact, instead of "western psyche," we might as well say "left psyche," as I will proceed to demonstrate."

Yep.

And Gibson's points are fist-pumpingly perfect:

"Here is Gilson's #1: "The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one's conversion is all but complete."

And most of all, Gagdad's:
"There are really only two places to begin our lifetome adventure of consciousness: with being, or with thought. Quite simply, the scholastics begin with being, while any form of critical philosophy begins with thought, as in I think, therefore I am.

Really? Really?"

But I do have to take exception to this:
"Note that there is nothing fundamentally illogical about such ideologies."

Not so. It is in their fundamentals that they are entirely illogical. I can't search out the quote at the moment, but one point Aristotle makes crystal clear, in several places, is that if any of your premises are not true - Real - then what you construct upon them are but noise; no matter what rules of form they appear to follow, they have no part in Logic... except to be illogical.

Logic, to be logical, must reflect what is real, what is true - it must be, or it is nothing at all - the whole point of logic is to determine the truth of your thinking - the logical being true, and what is illogical being what cannot be true.

[Enter Descartes, stage left].

1/16/2013 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ah, thanks Ben & Mushroom (sorry about the winter).

Carney's comment really disgusted me, an unbelievably vicious, blood thirsty thing to say

1/16/2013 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"The knowledge the realist is talking about is the lived and experienced unity of an intellect with an apprehended reality." The left brain can then help us reflect on that reality, but cannot be its source."

"In other words, the left brain cannot generate its own content, with certain exceptions, most especially, logical or mathematical entailment."

DING DING DING!

Regarding math, I never liked it until I used it in the sciences. Just doing symbol manipulation seemed a waste of time. It wasn't until I was applying the mathematical tools to the sciences did I take an interest because, well, the sciences were meaningful to me, they were explaing the world.

1/16/2013 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, you can't generate a cosmos with math.

1/16/2013 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

There's some animated pirate movie playing in my living room just now, which featured a very apt line:

"It's only impossible if you stop to think about it."

1/16/2013 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Pirates understand Keynes. Who knew?

1/16/2013 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I dunno, I'm starting to think Keynesians are actually pirates at heart...

1/16/2013 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We should have an annual Speak Like a Keynesian Day, so people can get it out of their system.

1/16/2013 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

As Ralph Krugman would say, "Deficits to the moon, Alice!"

1/16/2013 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance… Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …”

1/16/2013 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Start seeing it everywhere?!
Bahhh!
Roger Scruton - On Alternatives to Idealism

1/16/2013 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Ahriman's side of the brain?

guy
or
fawkes
?
which side of brain dastardizes
thus?

1/17/2013 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

So Obama, Cuomo, Soros, etc., form truth through ideology. Thus the need to force it on people who dwell in reality. That's why they can say w/o a hint of self-consicousness (literally): "We have to pass it to know what's in it."

1/17/2013 04:42:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Van, that was brilliant. Totally tweeted it!

1/17/2013 04:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Speak Like A Keynesian Day is every day now, isn't it?

1/17/2013 04:49:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It is everywhere. How was he to know his girlfriend was imaginary?

1/17/2013 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Except for that, she was ideal.

1/17/2013 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"It's happening now with left and right brain differences. Ever since I picked up The Master and His Emissary, they're turning up everywhere I look, for example, in this book by Etienne Gilson called Methodical" Realism."

That's because I think I dumped a Bionian dept charge into the hopper.

I mean, I was wandering around some other blog (who also blogged about MOT at one point) and grabbed the Master book thingy and brought it here because...well, because that's what I do.

I figured I would see what happens. I'm kind of surprised by what happened. Meaning that *anything* happened at all.

Anyhow, it looks like it was one of those Bionian thingies.

I don't know if that helps.

1/17/2013 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Funniest gun control video ever.

People against senseless violence yard signs advertising that the house is a "Gun Free Zone"

I'm shocked, shocked that no one wanted one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1Zy_ASNyA

1/17/2013 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No time for a post today. Until tomorrow, keep it real.

1/17/2013 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said "No time for a post today. Until tomorrow, keep it real."

Even our girlfriends? Where's the fun in that?

Wait dear, I was joking...really! You see, Mushroom was sayin'....

OW! Now hold on, it was a hoax, see?

Ack!

1/17/2013 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Besides, she died of cancer.

Blam! Blam!

1/17/2013 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Meanwhile, as I recover from my gunshot wounds, here's some great news: Afghanistan IS Now A Gun Free Zone

1/17/2013 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It was an eerie parallel to Notre Dame's entire season.

1/17/2013 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Meanwhile, as I recover from my gunshot wounds, here's some great news: Afghanistan IS Now A Gun Free Zone"

Don't worry about a thing, Ben.

I've found some potential girlfriends (twins) online in a chat room who are both incredibly attractive and skilled battlefield surgeons. They are 35, but people tell them that they look like they are in their mid-20's.

I told them all about you about your problem with your wife and they agreed to stop by your place in about an hour to fix you up and potentially date you.

However, they need your bank account number, though in order to give you some cash so that you can buy some pain killers if they get stuck in traffic.

1/17/2013 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Joan said " Totally tweeted it!"

Thanks Joan!

1/17/2013 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

Van (Harvey), Thank you for beating Jay Carney like a rented mule. He deserves it, and more besides.

My husband's bumper sticker from December 19th: "Ban Abortion: If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It."

He saw it coming.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1u0Byq5Qis

1/17/2013 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

A new excerpt released from Wilber's forthcoming book speaks to critical realism that Gilson is bringing out. Of course, Ken sides that developmental context will determine ontology and epistemology at the same time (therefore hedging traditionalism with postmodernism).

1/18/2013 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, it doesn't speak to Gilson, since his Methodical Realism is a brief against critical realism, which he believes simply devolves to another form of critical theory. Once we abandon genuine realism, we are in a pretentious Wilberian lala land. Never trust a man who endorses Deepak Chopra or Bubba Free John or Andrew Cohen or Michel Foucault. Realism inoculates a person from such fatuities.

1/18/2013 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For example, in the first paragraph Wilber says that critical realism "separates epistemology and ontology," which is precisely what realism does not do, since it cannot be done.

1/18/2013 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Thanks for the clarification Bob. I suppose I'll just need to read Gilson's book.

1/18/2013 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe as I write today's post I'll try to incorporate some of Wilber's rant. He really needs an editor, though. As Don Colacho says, "a writer who doesn't torture his sentences tortures his readers."

1/18/2013 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I started to try to read it, but got distracted by the picture. It gives me the willies.

1/18/2013 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

lighten up your weekend: A CONFAB OF
MAJE ATHEISTS

1/18/2013 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Here is Wilber interviewing his buddy Deepak. I'm afraid to look.

1/18/2013 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow. How in the heck does anybody fall for that schlock?

SUPER BRAIN! Unleash the EXPLOSIVE POWER of your MIND!!

Come on. Really?

The fact that Chopra has become ridiculously successful peddling that bull is just one more sign of the coming apocalypse.

1/18/2013 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And with all due respect to Wilber -- who was once a clear thinker -- the mere fact that he not only associates with this huckster, but endorses his books, places his judgment in question, to put it mildly. Or to put it another way: if Wilber's philosophy is so lofty, why can't it even prevent him from such self-beclowning?

1/18/2013 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Hey Coons!
I'm interested to hear any feedback you might have on this book.
It's not a short read but not too long.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/eassoul.htm
CHARLES A. EASTMAN (OHIYESA)

Possibly the "MYSTERY" spoken of in Revelations?

1/18/2013 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Dougman - thanks, that was an interesting read. My first thought touches back on a recent conversation over at Mushroom's place, regarding the tendency people have to idealize the past, the gist of which was this:

"In reality, the "feel" of those times that we miss has almost everything to do with interior states of being; cultures based in Truth will always have an aura of heaven about them, no matter what their outward trappings, and cultures turned away from Truth will always have the stink of hell."

If the history the author you linked wrote about is true, that would indeed have been a beautiful way of life.

1/18/2013 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

He led a fascinating life.
Took to the white man's way at the urging og his father and went to college and became a doctor and a writer. I think he was one of the first people to reach Wounded Knee after the massacre.

1/18/2013 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Anyhoo, thanks for the feedback!

1/18/2013 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

No problem - thanks for the read :) It provided an interesting contrast to the Little House books, which I'm currently re-reading.

1/18/2013 11:10:00 AM  

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